1. This civil revision petition arises out of an application made by the petitioner for setting aside the election of the 1st respondent as a councillor for one of the seats in the first ward of the Palni Municipality. The chief ground alleged by him in support of his application was that on the date of the nomination of the 1st respondent he was holding the office of trustee of Sri Dandayuthapani Swami temple at Palni, that one Selvadandapani Gurukkal who was a heriditary archaka of the temple was already sitting as a councillor, that there is relationship of employer and servant between the two and that therefore his nomination and subsequent election were invalid under Section 49, Clause (2), Sub-clause (vi) of Act V of 1920. When the alleged disqualification of the 1st respondent was brought to the notice of the Vice-Chairman, he held that his nomination was improper and invalid and excluded his name from the list of valid nominations. The 1st respondent, however, moved the Government, under Rule 31 of the Rules relating to the conduct of elections of Municipal Councilors, to decide on the validity of the objection raised against his nomination, and the Government passed an order cancelling the order of the Vice-Chairman under Sub-section (1) of Section 36 of the Act. Subsequently he has been elected as a member of the Palni Municipality. The Subordinate Judge held that the decision of the Government under Rule 31 of the Rules relating to the conduct of elections upholding the validity of the nomination of the 1st respondent is final and that, in view of that Rule and the Government's decision thereunder, the Civil Court has no jurisdiction now to consider the question of the validity of the nomination. He therefore dismissed the petitioner's application. Various issues were raised in the case, but, in view of his opinion on this main issue, the Subordinate Judge did not go into the full merits of the petition.
2. It is argued before us that the Subordinate judge's interpretation of Rule 31 of the Rules relating to the conduct of elections is incorrect, that the relationship of master and servant existed between the 1st respondent and the Gurukkal who was already a member of the Municipality and that the Subordinate Judge, in dismissing the application, has declined to exercise the jurisdiction vested in him by law.
3. The question that we have to decide is whether, in the circumstances above mentioned, the decision of the Government as regards the validity of the nomination of the 1st respondent is final and excludes the jurisdiction of the Civil Court to decide that question. The Government has framed two sets of rules, one dealing with the enquiry into the validity of elections and the other relating to the conduct of elections and Rule 31 appears in the latter class and runs thus : 'If any question arises as to the interpretation of these rules otherwise than in connection with an election enquiry held under the rules for the decision of disputes as to the validity of an election, the question shall be referred to the Local Government whose decision shall be final'. The alleged disqualification of the 1st respondent, as already pointed out, was based on the ground that, as he was the employer of the person who was already a councillor, he could not be elected under Section 49, Clause (2), Sub-clause (vi) of the Act. This provision relating to the disqualification appears in the body of the Act and not in the Rules. The learned Subordinate Judge thus dealt with this objection : 'It cannot be doubted that the present ground on which the nomination of the 1st respondent was sought to be excluded related to the conduct of the elections in the Municipality. Section 305, Clause (c) lays down that the rules framed by the Government must be read as part of the Act, ie., as if enacted in the body of the Act. The Government therefore have reserved to themselves the right to interpret so much of the Act as corresponds to the rules incorporated in it. The objection therefore that the Government have right only to interpret their own rules as if they formed a category separate from the body of the Act is of no avail.' The reasoning of the learned Subordinate Judge is unitelligible; we fail to see what Section 305, Clause (c) and the inference to be deduced from it has got to do with the decision of the question before us. This part of the Subordinate Judge's judgment has not been supported by the learned vakil for the respondents. Shortly stated, Rule 31 according to its terms, makes the decision of the Local Government final if questions arise as to the interpretation of the rules regarding the conduct of elections formulated by the Government under District Municipalities Act. The objection now raised by the petitioner does not relate to the interpretation of any of the rules framed by the Government but it relates to the application of a specific provision of the Act. There is a clear distinction between the provisions of the Act and the rules framed by the Government under the Act. The Government, by constituting itself the final tribunal in interpreting the rules made by it, cannot, though the rules form part of the Act, reserve to itself the exclusive right to interpret the specific provisions of the Act thus ousting the jurisdiction of the Civil Courts. The decision relied on by the learned Subordinate Judge [Sarvothama Rao v. Chairman Municipal Council, Saidapet : AIR1923Mad475 ] is inapplicable, as in that case the question for decision clearly related to the interpretation of the Rules. The true scope of Rule 31 is made clear by the following observation of Wallace, J. After quoting the rule, he states
The Local Government which drafted the Rules is the final arbiter for deciding what the Rules mean, and the Civil Court cannot ordinarily be asked to decide whether the Local Government's interpretation of its own rules is right or wrong.
This is all what Rule 31 states. It makes the Government the final arbiter for deciding what the Rules made by it mean. It does not give the Government the right to interpret the specific provisions of the Act thus excluding the jurisdiction of the Civil Court to do so.
4. In support of his argument that the Court has no jurisdiction when once the Government has passed an order under Rule 31, the respondent's learned vakil drew our attention to Rule 4, Clause 2, Sub-clause (i) of the Rules relating to the conduct of elections of Municipal Councillors, according to which, the Chairman in the course of the authority of the nomination papers can reject the nomination of a candidate if he is ineligible for election under Section 48 or Section 49 of the Madras District Municipalities Act, 1920, and argued that, since Section 49 is thus referred to in the rules, the Government, when called upon to interpret a rule under Rule 31, Clause 1, can, in so doing, also interpret Section 49 of the Act. We cannot accept this argument. If pressed to its logical conclusion it would mean that the Government, under the guise of interpreting its own rules, can also interpret the statute and thus take away altogether the jurisdiction of the Civil Court to do so. We cannot uphold a construction which brings about such an obviously undesirable result. In our opinion, the finality of the Government's decision under Rule 31, Clause (1), attaches only to the interpretation of the rules and not to the construction of the statute.
5. We therefore hold that the lower Court erred in holding that the decision of the Government under Rule 31 regarding the validity of the 1st respondent's nomination was final or binding upon the Court in this case. Holding the opinion that the order of the Government under Rule 31, Clause (1) is final, the Subordinate Judge, though he has referred to all the issues in his order, has not really disposed the case on the merits. We would therefore set aside the order of the learned Subordinate Judge and ask him to take the petition on file and dispose of it according to law. The petitioner will get his costs here. The costs in the lower Court will abide the result.